Last night the Habs allowed the Thrashers the first goal.
Then for the 4th time this season, they simply couldn't do anything to answer that.
Should we be surprised? I'd say no.
If you want to look for a weakness on this Canadiens team, beyond the PP and their "second" centre that is, the proven inability to be beaten by a first goal might be it.
This season, the record is clear enough:
2-7-0 now after being scored on first.
That includes 4 shutouts against, and 6 occasions where they never even tied the game up again.
Even the two games they won were quirky in that they scored rather quickly to negate that early lead. Vs. Phoenix, they answered within 5 minutes and had the lead within 8 minutes. In Buffalo, they answered the first goal within the minute, and the same for the second.
This season, at least, this is a team that plays like champions with a lead, but rather like chumps when chasing.
There's a history here too.
In the playoffs last spring, the Canadiens let the opponents score first 8 times. They lost 7 of those games in very similar fashion to the above scenarios, again being shutout 4 times over.
Last regular season, the team was ranked 23rd among the 30 in win percentage when trailing after the first period (It isn't exactly the same thing as being scored on first necessarily, but for someone who just wants to make a quick point without doing lots of work, it's a good approximation for now). A piddly 0.256 percentage, once again indicating their propensity to find brick walls to run into.
As all the talk these days seems to be intent on declaring the Habs true contenders based on their November run, this must be a factor to consider, a serious chink in the armor.
Good teams, well the best teams, win from in front and win from behind (again, I'll use trailing after the first to illustrate): Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago are all above 0.400 when needing to come back after 20 minutes. Washington is above 0.600.
All athletes will tell you there are different types of competitor. Among them these that can be beaten with an early flourish and those you can never turn your back on. My own experience is that the resilient ones, the ones you can never count out are the opponents you have to worry about. Those that win from in front when everything goes right but give up when they trail are easy enough to build a strategy for. There's no strategy to put down the ones that keep getting up.
Yesterday, I was listening to some radio guys go on about the Canadiens resilience and their apparent ability to bounce back from anything. This was evidenced by good games after bad they proposed. I think this is at serious odds with the in-game findings that show an almost total requirement for that first goal. With it, they are league contenders, without it, they are peers of the Islanders.
I only hope that the coaches and the team take these frequent shutouts as lessons for future use. To find, I suppose, ways not to fall into the typical defensive traps that leading teams create to make the appearance of offensive generation. Heck, they could learn those lessons from their own wins.
Yes, losses happen and we mustn't fret. Trends in losses, however, are worth paying attention to. If the Habs don't buck this trend, they may have enough trouble making the playoffs, let alone contending in them.
At least, I suppose, we could all save on a lot of hours watching the games if first goals continue to spell out results.